I could focus on the fact that the moms in this video all look the same: upper/middle class Or that they are almost all white. Or I could discuss the churchy overtone. Instead, let me concentrate on its message: while we moms are notoriously hard on ourselves, our kids see less imperfection and more of the simple, basics that are right there in front of them. Watch this and do the exercise yourself. Imagine what your kids would say, if they aren’t able to talk yet. Leave me a comment below to share what you said and what they did.
I was asked this recently and the speaker wasn’t talking about an adult beverage. She was speaking about a different kind of second: a child.
I used to fidget a bit with this question. Sometimes because the speaker wasn’t someone that I knew but sometimes just because I felt the answer should always be an unhesitating “yes”. “I’m 40,” I always begin in a “doesn’t that explain everything?” sort of way. It never did.
“I knew that I could be a great mother to one but any more and I’d be mediocre.” said a commenter on Lauren Sandler’s recent piece in Slate on her decision to have only one child. That really resonated with me. I have all I can handle right now, with one toddler. Another child? I’d lose my mind and just as bad, I’d be mediocre as a parent. I believe that. I give E. 100% of me 95% of the time. It’s exhausting but she gets me, not a distracted version of me. I honestly don’t know how moms parent more than one child. They always amaze me! It’s just not in me to have the kind of patience.
I’m also one of the most selfish people I know. Alone time has always been really important to me. I love reading and writing. My creative work is essential to me feeling like I am still a woman with an identity outside of mother. At some point I want to read books about addiction, alcoholism and mental health again just because I can instead of mainly parenting and business books. I love being in the car listening Metallica at high decibels, ALONE, instead of the standard Music Together CD that E. and I usually listen to on our drives. I eagerly anticipate the day when I can attend a conference again or be gone overnight.
Speaking of selfish…my pregnancy wasn’t bad at all. I felt physically great throughout most of it. But emotionally, I felt anxious and vulnerable. I’m also one of the rare women who had the childbirth experience that she had hoped for. Do I want to go through either of those experiences again? No way. I LOVE that I can finally wear my “old” clothes again, not breastfeed every few hours and feel like myself…most days.
But it’s also a resource issue for us. I’m building a business that will launch later this Fall so I’m working very part-time. My husband makes a decent salary and we save money on childcare because I do the bulk of it. But I like being able to go to Whole Foods and buying mainly organic fruits and veggies for E. My husband’s family is in Germany and it’s important for us to return to see them annually, and not for a long weekend. E. will go to a little school before kindergarten certainly and because embarrassingly in this resource rich country there is no daycare, we will need to pay for it. No small chunk of change, as many of you already know.
E. is still breastfeed because it’s what she wants. I wear her on walks (all 20+ pound of her…and not in a backpack either!) because she is in a phase where she hates the BOB. We go grocery shopping together and I let E. steer (us, not the grocery cart!) toward the produce that catches her eye. I want her to know that I am there for her, always, always, always. Forever. On top of everything else, I know that I couldn’t give that to her if there was another child in the picture. It’s not in me.
“No,” I told this woman immediately, without hesitation. “One is enough for us.”
So, mom, tell me when your
kids girls are old enough to read, will you have a conversation about sexualization of women in our world today or are you hoping to avoid that topic all together? Perhaps best to ignore it, given the message of the vanity plate on your minivan.
Here’s the thing, mom, when you value “hotness” over smarts, athletic ability, common sense or kindness, you’re not only contributing to an already over-sexualized culture but you’re teaching your girls the same thing. They learn from you. They imitate you. Your vanity plate teaches your girls that their hotness is the only thing that matters.
Moms, dads wake the fuck up! Your kids are SMART. They may be small (or not) but they are still humans who get it. Jesper Juul says that “very small children (even!) actually study us in order to read our feelings before expressing themselves.” (1) If small children are looking at us to understand what’s going on emotionally, you better believe that they get what they see we do too. Perhaps they can’t articulate what they see but make no mistake that they see it.
Being a parent takes my breath away often because it is so hard. And I just have one child. So I get some of the challenges but you signed up for this lifelong job but get on it. Be a better rolemodel. Teach with intention, not by default. Your kids deserve it.
1. Juul, Jesper. _Your Competent Child_. Balboa Press, 2011. P. 27